8 Surprising Ways Playing Poker Can Make You Smarter

THINK LIKE A POKER PLAYER AND BECOME THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE ROOM. HERE’S HOW PLAYING POKER CAN BOOST YOUR BRAIN POWER AND MAKE YOU SMARTER.

You have to make smart decisions in poker. But did you know that playing poker can actually boost your brain power, improve your memory and make you smarter? As if you needed another excuse. But if you’re looking for one, here are 8 more. Here are 8 reasons playing poker makes you smarter.

#1. YOU’LL THINK MORE LOGICALLY

It goes without saying that playing poker demands a certain level of strategic and critical thinking, but above anything else, it requires logic. Without it, poker just doesn’t make any sense.

When we say that something is logical, what we actually mean is that it makes sense. Thinking logically is a particular way of processing your thoughts; a thought process that’s reasonable and based on good judgment. It’s about approaching a problem or a task and evaluating it until you reach the most logical conclusion.

Logic comes into play right at the outset in poker. It’s a game of problem solving where you rely on logic to calculate your moves. In poker, logic does a number of things—from correlating numbers, processing emotions, reading gestures and cues, to calculating probability and making perceptive observations—all of which are essential when it comes to playing poker. But most importantly, it will help you evaluate your next move.

It doesn’t matter how many strategies you have hidden under your belt, there are times in a poker game that you’re left with no choice but to come up with the most logical move—be that to cut your losses or to raise the stakes. Intuition comes into it of course, but poker players always weigh up their options to establish whether the pros outweigh the cons, and that’s for the most part, down to logic. Poker will undoubtedly push you to the edge of your logic, but it’s logic that will always come to the rescue when you need to bail yourself out.

#2. IT IMPROVES YOUR MEMORY

One of the most critical skills in poker is memory. Not only do you have to memorize the cards that have been dealt, you also have to calculate what cards are still in the deck, then work out the probability of them being dealt next. That in itself makes poker the perfect brain training exercise. It does wonders for your memory and cognitive skills.

Working memory is one of the most important cognitive abilities. It’s a temporary storage system that holds onto information in your short-term memory for short periods of time (up to a few minutes). We use this information to execute a number of cognitive tasks such as listening, concentrating and following instructions.

Given that poker forces you to keep track of the cards dealt and how the players bet, it’s a great exercise to improve your working memory skills. It trains your brain to retain information more effectively. Essentially, by playing poker, you’ll develop a new way of learning and processing new information. Not only will you improve your poker game, it will help you process other pieces of information in everyday life, too. You’ll find yourself remembering phone numbers and people’s birthdays for example, where you might have forgotten them before.

#3. IT KEEPS YOUR MIND ACTIVE

As any poker player will know, a poker game requires skill, concentration, strategic thinking, dedication, and of course, hours and hours of practice. Poker is incredibly demanding on your mind—a game demands several hours of deep focus, concentration and strategy, so we’re pretty confident when we say that playing poker keeps your mind constantly active. When you’re playing, your mind literally never stops. Poker players always have to look ahead and think about their next strategic move, which in turn, keeps your mind working and your brain sharp.

#4. YOU’LL THINK QUICKER

You have to think under pressure in poker. You’re constantly analyzing, calculating and assessing your level of risk in order to make your next move, so you have to think quickly to put your opponents under pressure.

Poker itself is a bit of a numbers and statistics game. Players are known for their ability to count, multiply, divide and tally all at once. They rely on odds and calculations to foresee potential outcomes of the hands they’re playing. A quick round of mental math or card counting will help you assess what cards your opponents might be holding, so the more you play, the quicker you’ll get at calculating your risk. Players often count cards on the table and in their opponents’ hands to help rule out possibilities and make strategic moves.

You’ll soon realize that your math game will get even stronger—and a hell of a lot quicker—when playing poker, from bluffing to calculating pot odds. You have to think quickly and on your feet. Math is often the deciding factor (and the most logical) when it comes to assessing whether you should make that play or not.

#5. YOU’LL BE MORE CREATIVE

Not only does poker help you make quick, strategic decisions, it also pushes you to think differently. And when we say differently, we mean creatively. Poker requires you to think outside the box and find unique solutions to complex problems. When you have those cards in your hand, you have to figure out how you can use them to your advantage. There are endless possibilities with every move—you can bluff, you can fold, you can check, you can bet. You can pretty much play your hand in any way that you want. But the more creative your play, the better chance you have at winning.

Your gameplay will push you to think much more creatively, not just in poker, but in day-to-day life. You’ll find that your problem-solving skills both in work and your personal life, will improve tenfold. The more poker you play, the better equipped you’ll be at approaching challenging situations that come your way.

#6. IT WILL HELP YOU CONCENTRATE

The art of multitasking comes in handy in a poker game. Poker players balance a multitude of different skills and disciplines with every gameplay—memory, math, strategy, analysis, observation, logic, creativity, intuition. Poker covers a lot of bases. You have to pay attention to the entire game, no matter how long it goes on for. One missed cue could cost you the entire game, so it pays to keep your concentration levels piqued so you don’t miss a single thing.

Timing, gestures and the right moves are all essential when it comes to playing poker, so you need to be alert and focused, observing the game the entire time. There’s so much information available to you at the table, but the key to unlocking it is pure concentration. Poker forces you into a realm of concentration like you’ve never experienced before, giving you the ability to balance a number of things all at once.

#7. YOU’LL BE MORE PATIENT

Playing poker isn’t an easy game to master. If you’ve played poker longer enough, you’ll know all too well how frustrating it can be. You can spend hours and hours perfecting your strategy and still get outwitted by another opponent’s crafty moves. But often it’s the simplest mistakes that can trip you up at the table. Patience is irrefutably one of them.

Without patience, you’ll never be a successful poker player. Why? Because poker is an extremely tactical game. You have to assess your situation, then wait patiently to make a strategic move. Impatient players tend to make rash decisions which, unless you’re extremely lucky, often results in you losing a lot more than you bargained for. Successful poker players rely on this invaluable skill to make tactical decisions, and ultimately outwit their opponents.

Patience will take your poker game to a whole new level. One of the golden rules of poker is keeping your cool. Practicing patience will stop you from acting on instinct and instead, give you the tools you need to make rational, cool-headed calls, even at the most stressful points in the game. That goes for real life, too. Patience gives you the skills to evaluate a bad situation, then act on it when the moment is right.

#8. YOU’LL HAVE HIGHER EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Due to the nature of the game, poker can be a volatile environment. Any poker player will know they have to balance the highs with the lows, and with that comes serious mood swings. If you’re playing online poker, your mood can be easily masked—there’s a screen to hide you after all—but it could still influence how you play out your next move, which could be telling to your opponents. Don’t forget they can use that against you.

The trick for any good poker player is to stay in control of your emotions. Acknowledge them, yes, but under no circumstance should you let them take over if you want to keep yourself in the game. Emotions drive us into action, but they can also make us act recklessly without much thought. In poker, you learn to find the right balance between making emotional and logical decisions. This learned technique gives poker players the added advantage of having a higher emotional intelligence than most, as they are able to identify, interpret and manage their own—or their opponent’s—emotions, and use them effectively in their own gameplay.